Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Don't waste time in mourning . . .

Yup, everybody's depressed today. Even the General can't find any humor in the situation. I can't find the inspiration to do the posts I had lined up on the shortage of Emergency Department services, the exodus of physicians from primary care, or the mildly creepy authoritarian public health philosophy of Prof. John Banzhaf. But I will get around to them. This is just one more day in history -- there are many more to come.

I lived through Vietnam and the Nixonian power grab, and long before I was old enough to vote, I was organizing and protesting. That's what you did in those days, if you didn't like killing and burning and torturing people in your name, and you still wanted to live in a nation of laws and liberties. And in the end, we won. We saved our Republic. And we did more than that -- we ended legalized discrimination, won the right to vote, won greater equality for women, changed some of the basic norms of our culture, apparently forever. So, we got complacent. The vandals were just outside the city gates, gathering in the woods, plotting our downfall. But we were growing soft.

The mass media culture grew even shallower, over the past 25 years, something I would not have thought possible. At its best, for a time, journalism was a profession with a sense of mission and honor. Now it's nothing more than a category of high class whoredom. Back then, people were engaged in politics through true mass organizations -- unions, local community groups, statewide and national issue-oriented mobilizations that had real members who went to meetings, held local events, and sent in money to keep the national program going. Now about the only people who do that are fascist religious fanatics.

When I first moved to the Boston area I got involved with Mobilization for Survival. (Now Boston Mobilization.) It was just an average month for us to have 10,000 people on the Boston Common protesting U.S. intervention in Central America, five or six talks in front of church or community groups (yup, churches used to be against war, and for social justice, imagine that), monthly meetings of four different program committees with 12 or 15 active members each, a small demonstration at a Congressional office -- and meantime there were 10 other groups that would join us in coalitions when they weren't doing their own thing at approximately the same rate, from SANE to CPPAX to the DSA.

If any president had tried to pull off one twentieth of the outrages of this present gang of murderous thieves, the Boston metropolitan area, and a lot of other cities around the U.S.A. would have been shut down. Hell, we did shut them down when Nixon invaded Cambodia, and things got so hot when Reagan wanted to send troops to Central America that we stopped him. I remember it very well, I trained marshalls and organized for a march on the Pentagon of 45,000 people, and there wasn't even a publicly announced intention to go to war, just some state-sponsored terrorism by the CIA.

But now we are a self-absorbed people, fat and comfortable, yet timorous and clinging -- maybe because we're afraid we really don't deserve what we have and that guilt makes us fearful of losing it. Why the wealthiest, most powerful and by far the most militarily secure society in history would sell its soul to a bunch of clownish megalomaniacs out of paranoia and cowardice is pretty hard to explain. But don't ever forget that Americans are no better than other people. And today, we are worse than most.